American English
An Introduction
  • Publication Date: September 26, 2000
  • ISBN: 9781551112299 / 1551112299
  • 360 pages; 6" x 9"

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American English

An Introduction

  • Publication Date: September 26, 2000
  • ISBN: 9781551112299 / 1551112299
  • 360 pages; 6" x 9"

This book is a cultural-historical (rather than purely linguistic) introduction to American English. The first part consists of a general account of variation in American English. It offers concise but comprehensive coverage of such topics as the history of American English; regional, social and ethnic variation; variation in style (including slang); and British and American differences.

The second part of the book puts forward an account of how American English has developed into a dominant variety of the English language. It focuses on the ways in which intellectual traditions such as puritanism and republicanism, in shaping the American world view, have also contributed to the distinctiveness of American English.

Comments

American English is an admirable piece of work. It provides an informative and up-to-date survey of the variety of English spoken in the United States. The discussion of historical developments is excellent, the summaries of scholarship accurate and readable, and the many examples throughout the book (of regional variations, of business jargon, of American sex-talk, and of much else) are consistently illuminating.” — Donald Wesling, University of California, San Diego

Preface
Acknowledgments
A phonetic alphabet for English pronunciation

Chapter 1 Why study American English?

  • The “British vs. American” issue
    The American “mind” and intellectual traditions
    What to teach: British or American?
    Can American English reflect culture and the American “mind”?
    Properties of American English: a preview
    Explaining American English
    Which materials are used in this book?
    Structure of the book
    Study Questions and Activities

Chapter 2 American English: a brief history

  • The historical background
    Elizabethan English
    Archaic features of American English
    The influence of languages of the colonial period
    The influence of later immigrants
    Study Questions and Activities

Chapter 3 A new nation

  • The task of naming
    The naming of things
    The frontier and the West
    Language and technological developments
    Setting up new institutions
    People and their homes
    Study Questions and Activities

Chapter 4 Linguistic geography in the United States

  • Some history
    Language, dialect, and idiolect
    Linguistic geography
    General assessment of linguistic geography
    Study Questions and Activities

Chapter 5 Regional dialects of American English

  • The study of American regional varieties
    The Northern dialect
    The Coastal South
    The Midland dialect
    The West as a dialect region
    Some general regional markers
    Reasons for uniformity and variation in American English
    Study Questions and Activities

Chapter 6 Social dialects of American English

  • Social vs. regional variation
    Factors in social variation
    Standard and nonstandard American English
    Attempts at standardizing American English
    Attitudes toward dialects of American English
    Dialects and social problems
    Study Questions and Activities

Chapter 7 Ethnic dialects of American English

  • Hispanic American English
    The Black English vernacular
    Study Questions and Activities

Chapter 8 Style in American English

  • Setting
    Subject matter
    Medium
    Audience
    Mixing styles
    Study Questions and Activities

Chapter 9 American slang

  • History of the study of English slang
    The emergence of American slang
    Sources of American slang
    The subject matters of American slang
    Distinctive properties of American slang
    Impact of American slang on other varieties of English
    Study Questions and Activities

Chapter 10 Vocabulary differences between British and American English

  • Words of American origin
    Vocabulary differences: some questions
    The main subject areas of British and American English lexical differences
    The interaction between British and American English vocabulary
    Study Questions and Activities

Chapter 11 General accounts of British-American linguistic differences

  • The “linguistic geography” approach
    A collection of British archaisms
    Social history
    Parallel lists
    “Form-referent” typologies
    “Intellectual traditions” approach
    Study Questions and Activities

Chapter 12 Economy in American English

  • The historical context
    Spelling reform
    Economy
    Study Questions and Activities

Chapter 13 Rationality in American English

  • What is rationality?
    Linguistic economy: the elimination of redundancy
    Linguistic economy: one value, one form
    Regularity
    Iconicity
    Study Questions and Activities

Chapter 14 The “straightforward” American

  • Sincerity
    Clear language
    The causes of directness
    Business talk
    The tension between plain and “unplain” language
    Study Questions and Activities

Chapter 15 The democratic nature of American English

  • Standardization
    Availability of Standard American English
    Tolerance
    The language of democracy
    Antisexism in America: the linguistic fight
    Study Questions and Activities

Chapter 16 The “casual” American

  • The beginnings of American informality
    Forms of address
    Some informal speech acts
    Informality in pronunciation and spelling
    Style “mixing”
    Informality in writing
    Study Questions and Activities

Chapter 17 American prudery in language

  • The social and historical context
    Swearing
    Death and some related areas
    The human body
    Study Questions and Activities

Chapter 18 Tall talk and grandiloquence

  • Tall talk
    Grandiloquence, or dignifying the not-so-dignified
    Study Questions and Activities

Chapter 19 The inventiveness of American English

  • Inventiveness as a major property of American English
    Making new words in American English
    Where were neologisms created?
    The causes of American inventiveness
    Study Questions and Activities

Chapter 20 The imaginativeness of American English

  • The nature of imaginativeness
    Why items are borrowed from American English
    Informality
    Verbal prudery
    Tall talk
    Inventiveness
    Some major metaphorical domains in American English
    Some conceptual metonymies
    British and American attitudes to imaginativeness
    Study Questions and Activities

Chapter 21 Action and success in American English

  • The components of American success
    Linguistic reflections of success in American English
    British and American differences
    Study Questions and Activities

Chapter 22 A new mind

  • The effects of social history on American English
    Properties of American English
    American English and the American character
    American intellectual traditions
    Tensions
    American English and modernity
    Study Questions and Activities

References
Index

Zoltán Kövecses is Professor of Linguistics in the Department of American Studies at Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary; his other books include Metaphor and Emotion (Cambridge University Press) and The Language of Love (Bucknell University Press).